Health & Fitness – Progressive Overload Definition

2014-02-07_15-41-11In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to happen, your body must be challenged and forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.

Therefore, if you are not increasing the demands (endurance, strength, and flexibility) being placed on your body in some form over time, your body will not be improving. With weight training, the most basic and common way of increasing those demands is by increasing the amount of weight we lift. For example, once you can lift 10lbs on some exercise, you need to go up to 12lbs. At some point after that, 15lbs. This then continues as often as you can (while keeping good form intact) and for as long as we can.


It is crucial that we keep “good form intact”. You never want to sacrifice form in order to add weight. Often people are so determined to lift more thinking they have become stronger, but really they have lost form. They are using too much momentum, no longer going all the way up or down in the move, swinging the weight up and/or just letting it drop back down, bouncing the weight, lifting their rear-end off the bench/seat or any number of other things people do when their form goes to the dogs.

What SHOULD happen instead is that the same good form that was being used with the previous weight remains intact, only now it’s with a weight that’s a bit heavier and maybe harder to lift. Rather than sacrifice form, reduce the number of repetitions and build from there. For example, if you normally do a set of 12 repetitions, you may only complete 8 or 10 reps to begin with.

For more information about Progressive Overload and strength training, contact Janet Hunt, a Certified Personal Trainer at 256-614-3530.
By: Janet Hunt